Posted by: bburk2014 | October 8, 2014

The Medium is the Massage (or, how closely are we paying attention?)

The mention of Marshall McLuhan on Page 24 of the reading inspired me to look up exactly what McLuhan, the media theorist, meant by his famous phrase, “the medium is the message”. It summed up his view that the method by which content was delivered was more important than the content itself. It was introduced in his 1964 book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, but a subsequent book, The Medium is the Massage, was printed with an error in the title (“Massage” instead of “Message”). McLuhan decided to keep and replicate the error because it illustrated his thesis better than the original title did. He saw the forces that controlled the media as “massaging” messages to suit their aims. (For a fascinating collection of audio recordings featuring McLuhan, click here.) The fact that one’s eyes may easily pass over the minor typo without registering it illustrates the point that we are “consumers” of media information, ingesting it so quickly that we fail to notice hidden or erroneous messages, whether they are intentionally so or not.

The first three chapters of the reading include discussion of the individual journalist’s relationship to the larger media machine. Here’s my question to the group: Given the choice between Strat Comm and MMJ, choosing MMJ was a no-brainer because “pure” journalism seemed a more “honest” field, less subject to message manipulation by a client, etc. Now entering my third year in the program, I’m no longer so sure. What do you think?


  1. I was torn between Strat Comm and MMJ as well, and went for SC because I believed it would give me better tools to craft messages and put them out in the world. My ultimate goal is to produce documentaries in the Film and Television industry, and I have had people ask me why I was not signing up for MMJ instead. I started last week, and you started years ago, so your statement is based on experience and mine in pure assumption, but I believe that SC is a great program for someone searching for “honest” journalism. Basically, I see Strategic Communications as the art of message creation. Having enough information on the topic, knowing the audience, the channels and the impact on groups and society are crucial, and that could translate to a political campaign, an advertisement, a marketing strategy, a documentary on the effect of television on children, or a Pulitzer-winning expose on a corrupted political scheme. I believe this program is highly flexible, and it allows people to explore different aspects of the media world.
    But, if I had a choice, I would create my own program called “Strategic Multimedia Communication”, where people like you and I do not have to make a choice because if you love media as much as I do, you probably think all the classes in both programs are fascinating.

  2. You present the word ‘manipulation’ as though there has been and always will be negative connotations associated with its implantation.

    Depending on its context and social reasoning, would it be so bad to be manipulated? Why would one become angry if they were to discover they had been steered in a particular direction? Is it because we wish to believe that we alone dictate our decisions whether or not we consciously decide to make one? That ‘me and only me’ can decide which road to take when I come to a fork in the road?

    There may be room in this world to be, using your term, manipulated, in a positive manner with positive outcomes.

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